2014 NFL Free Agency: Every Team's Best Remaining Option on the Open Market
There isn't much left in this year's free-agent crop, but with another month left before the May draft, teams still have time to pick through the leftovers. The release of Chris Johnson last week by the Tennessee Titans put a big name on the market at least.
He is one of the most frequent top targets available in our 32-team slideshow that outlines each franchise's best remaining option on the open market.
Guys like Johnson, Jermichael Finley and transition-tagged Alex Mack are still some luxury items dangling out there, so count a number of teams interested in the few remaining big names. Failing to net these guys will leave a tad bit more work to do come draft day.
Arizona Cardinals: Running Back Chris Johnson
The Arizona Cardinals currently have Andre Ellington atop their depth chart at running back. Chris Johnson might be a bit similar as a speed/outside runner, but he at least has experience and has shown durability as an early down back. Signing C.J. would allow Ellington to slot into a more fitting third-down/part-time role.
Atlanta Falcons: Running Back Chris Johnson
The Atlanta Falcons should not expect Steven Jackson, who will be 31 this season, to stay healthy for a full season. Also, Jacquizz Rodgers has proven incapable of being a feature back. Signing Chris Johnson would add an explosive dimension to a struggling Falcons ground game.
Baltimore Ravens: Wide Receiver Sidney Rice
The Baltimore Ravens added veteran wide receiver Steve Smith from the Carolina Panthers and tight end Owen Daniels this winter, but they could still use one more downfield threat for Joe Flacco. Adding it via the draft is a real possibility, but receivers don't tend to make an instant impact. Sidney Rice, coming off reconstructive knee surgery, could be a real weapon come midseason.
Buffalo Bills: Safety Steve Gregory
The Buffalo Bills declined to franchise tag safety Jairus Byrd a second time, leaving a hole in the secondary. While they are expecting more out of the young players on their roster, Duke Williams for one, a veteran like Steve Gregory would be a nice insurance policy if the young replacements don't pan out. Gregory and Bills head coach Doug Marrone are both Syracuse University products.
Carolina Panthers: Guard Travelle Wharton
Travelle Wharton is coming off a year in which he rated as a top-five guard, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The 32-year-old guard clearly can still play, so he should be motivated to put off retirement. With the Panthers weak at wide receiver, they need a guy like Wharton back to pound the rock on the ground and play tough defense.
Chicago Bears: Safety Thomas DeCoud
It is no secret that the Chicago Bears will be looking to find safety help in the May draft, but a veteran like Thomas DeCoud might prove to be a solid fallback option. DeCoud is coming off an embarrassingly bad year, but he is still under 30 years old and could be a cheap candidate for a bounce-back year.
Cincinnati Bengals: Defensive End Will Smith
The Cincinnati Bengals have had an interesting offseason. Despite being one of the teams with the most cap space, per OvertheCap.com, they showed no interest in re-signing tackle Anthony Collins or defensive end Michael Johnson. The latter could be replaced by a pass-rushing end like Will Smith, but this assumes the Bengals have any desire to spend money this offseason.
Cleveland Browns: Center Alex Mack
The Cleveland Browns might have the best remaining free agent on the market in center Alex Mack, but they are still in a pretty good position to retain him. Mack has a transition tag, which means the Browns can match the offer sheet he is reportedly going to receive from the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, according to Fox Sports NFL insider Mike Garafolo.
The Browns have the most salary-cap space remaining, according to OvertheCap.com, so now the question is whether the Jags will offer too much to match. This should be resolved by early next week.
Dallas Cowboys: Defensive Tackle Kevin Williams
The Dallas Cowboys had to suffer heavy losses this winter amid salary-cap hell, and most of them came on the defensive side of the ball. They lost some of their best defensive talent, and this was already the worst defense in football a year ago, allowing a league-high 415.3 yards per game. The Cowboys could insure their Henry Melton signing by adding defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
Denver Broncos: Running Back Chris Johnson
Before you scoff at this selection for the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos, imagine that record-setting offense with an explosive back like Chris Johnson. Montee Ball could be left to do the grinding in short-yardage and goal-line situations, while C.J. could exploit the wide-open spaces a Peyton Manning-led offense creates in the running game. This would be a real scary addition to an already-stacked Broncos team.
Detroit Lions: Cornerback Terrell Thomas
It is no secret the Detroit Lions have issues in the secondary. Terrell Thomas is not the player he once was after multiple knee reconstructions, but he is still just 29 and is coming off a full 16-game season. Thomas would be an ideal nickel corner for a team like the Lions and could help mentor the young defensive back the Lions are almost certain to draft this May.
Green Bay Packers: Tight End Jermichael Finley
There are still weeks and months of healing ahead of Jermichael Finley, but if he's healthy enough to play, he will be a game-changer for a number of teams. Count his former team one of the best places for him to sign. Familiarity and Aaron Rodgers can help Finley post big numbers in a comeback from career-threatening neck surgery.
Houston Texans: Linebacker Pat Angerer
Pat Angerer is still a few months away from being able to work out for teams, according to a tweet Tuesday night from Fox Sports' Alex Marvez. He is recovering from microfracture surgery. A team like the Houston Texans could take a chance on the 27-year-old and potentially wind up with a steal in the long run.
Indianapolis Colts: Running Back Chris Johnson
Like with the Broncos, Chris Johnson might not seem like a perfect fit for the Indianapolis Colts, but he sure would have an explosive offense to thrive in. The jury remains out on Trent Richardson as a feature back, while Ahmad Bradshaw is too risky to count on and Vick Ballard is coming off reconstructive knee surgery. Johnson would do well for his career to team up with a dynamic offense like the one Andrew Luck leads in Indy.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Center Alex Mack
If there was a team that could blow Mack away with an offer the Browns won't be inclined to match, it would be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have the third-most cap space, according to OvertheCap.com. The Jags have huge holes to fill on a putrid offense—especially at quarterback—but Mack is the type of domino that can make everyone better around him.
Fox Sports NFL insider Mike Garafolo tweets that the Jaguars will sign Mack to an offer sheet that will make him the highest-paid center in the NFL. That just might be enough to steal him from Cleveland, which proceeded a bit too cautiously with its franchise center this offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs: Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes
The Kansas City Chiefs have had a rough offseason because of salary-cap limitations, but signing a "prove it" deal with a wide receiver like Santonio Holmes could be an affordable way to improve. Sure, Holmes is no longer a No. 1, but the Chiefs wouldn't need him to be. Alex Smith needs another weapon, and Holmes would be a nice piece in Andy Reid's West Coast offense.
Miami Dolphins: Guard Travelle Wharton
The Miami Dolphins are not finished with their offensive line overhaul, so they could be one of the teams that lures guard Travelle Wharton away from retirement. As stated in the Carolina Panthers slide, Wharton can still play at an NFL level.
It is just a matter of offering him enough money to play one more season. The Dolphins are still about $16.5 million under the cap, according to OvertheCap.com, so that is plenty of buying power.
Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback Terrell Thomas
The Minnesota Vikings had the second-worst pass defense in football last season, and they have to contend with the high-powered offenses of quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler in the NFC North.
Terrell Thomas wouldn't be a great starting option for them, but he could be a nickel corner at least. That is something the Vikings will need, regardless of how much they add to their secondary in next month's draft.
New England Patriots: Tight End Jermichael Finley
The New England Patriots used to be all about the tight end. Now, they don't have a reliable starter on their roster, if you discount Rob Gronkowski coming off reconstructive knee surgery.
Even if Gronk proved to be healthy for Week 1—which is doubtful because of the nonstop injury drama with him and the Pats—Jermichael Finley would still be a great addition. He needs to prove healthy coming off a career-threatening neck injury, but the Pats are a team that could take a chance there and offer Finley a great environment for a big-time comeback statistically.
New Orleans Saints: Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes
No matter how much you think of second-year wide receiver Kenny Stills, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints can still use another downfield weapon in their pass-happy attack. Joe Morgan, Chris Givens and Nick Toon might have potential, but Santonio Holmes has done some good things in this league. If he wants a place to star on a one-year "prove it" deal, New Orleans would be it.
New York Giants: Tight End Jermichael Finley
Eli Manning has gotten help on the offensive line, and the New York Giants have overhauled their defense in free agency, but a gaping hole remains at tight end. It is possible the Giants target North Carolina standout Eric Ebron in the first round, but a healthy Finley would be better suited for a win-now team like the Giants.
You don't spend the money the Giants did in the offseason for a long-term plan. Manning's years are running short.
New York Jets: Running Back Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson's release from the Titans comes at a real bad time on the free-agent market. A lot of the money has been spent, and most teams that needed to have already signed their running backs. The New York Jets are one of the lone exceptions.
Not only could the Jets use some explosion in their run-first offense, but they also have the second-most salary-cap space in the NFL right now at over $26 million, according to OvertheCap.com. C.J. is a star who belongs in a major market like New York.
The New York Daily News' Manish Mehta tweeted earlier this week that the Jets "really like a potential Chris Ivory-Chris Johnson backfield tandem." This one might only be a matter of time.
Oakland Raiders: Linebacker Pat Angerer
The Oakland Raiders added a lot on the free-agent market this winter, but most came in the older category. When you are the Raiders, it is tough to lure premium talent.
One intriguing addition could be linebacker Pat Angerer. He still needs time to heal from microfracture surgery, but the Raiders have plenty of time to wait on a reclamation project. Angerer is just 27, so time is still on his side.
Philadelphia Eagles: Wide Receiver Sidney Rice
The Philadelphia Eagles unceremoniously released DeSean Jackson and saw Jason Avant sign with the Panthers, so they have a hole to fill at the wide receiver position. Jeremy Maclin is their current No. 1, and he is coming off reconstructive knee surgery.
The Eagles might just want to box Maclin with Sidney Rice. One of them is bound to have a solid recovery from 2013 season-ending surgery. If not Rice, perhaps Santonio Holmes could be an option here.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Wide Receiver Miles Austin
Big Ben Roethlisberger has long coveted a big wide receiver, but he currently has three sub-six-footers in Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore. Darrius Heyward-Bey (6'2") was recently signed, but Miles Austin might be another option.
Austin has been injury-prone, but he would immediately be the most accomplished receiver on the Steelers roster. You might be surprised to hear this, but Austin is just 29 years old. There has to be tread left on his tire somewhere.
San Diego Chargers: Cornerback Terrell Thomas
The San Diego Chargers have to compete with the most prolific passing attack in NFL history in the AFC West: Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. They need all the help they can get in the secondary.
Terrell Thomas, a Southern California product, might not be a starting cornerback in this league anymore, but the Chargers don't need one defensive back, they need three or four. Thomas is a nice fit here.
San Francisco 49ers: Defensive End Anthony Spencer
Anthony Spencer was one of the more feared pass-rushers in football in 2013 before requiring season-ending micofracture surgery last year. At just 30, he needs to find a team that can bring him along slowly and allow him to play in situational packages.
Spencer would be a great fit with a defensive juggernaut like the San Francisco 49ers. They have an aging defense that might need to rotate a lot more this year. Spencer would be wise to jump on board here to showcase his health and skills in a rebound year.
St. Louis Rams: Safety Steve Gregory
The St. Louis Rams' biggest need right now is a safety. Veteran Steve Gregory might not single-handedly fill that hole, but he could be a piece to the puzzle, particularly if the Rams plan to draft a young safety in Round 1 this May. Gregory would be a good part-time player and mentor here.
Seattle Seahawks: Tight End Jermichael Finley
The Seattle Seahawks already tried to sign Finley once, but he failed his physical, per Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Now, Finley is in a holding pattern on his health. Once he can prove ready for workouts coming off a career-threatening neck injury, he should have any number of teams willing to give him a chance.
The defending Super Bowl champions might have first dibs. They certainly could use a pass-catching tight end in their play-action passing game for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Wide Receiver Sidney Rice
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers grew tired of Mike Williams' act, trading him off to the Buffalo Bills. That might have been addition by subtraction, but they are still left with a hole to fill at wide receiver opposite Vincent Jackson.
A guy like Sidney Rice or Santonio Holmes could fit in nicely here. Considering the Bucs got rid of one supposed diva in Williams, figure Rice is the more likely target than the previously problematic Holmes.
Tennessee Titans: Fullback Le'Ron McClain
The Tennessee Titans are clearly in the market for a running back after releasing Chris Johnson, but they are more likely to draft a speedy feature back in the draft, where they are a dime a dozen.
If the Titans want to complement their running game, though, they might be wise to add a fullback like Le'Ron McClain. McClain has been a durable blocking back, missing just one game in his seven-year career. That is a remarkable stat for a running back in this day and age.
Washington Redskins: Cornerback Terrell Thomas
The Washington Redskins scored a huge coup in the NFC East, stealing DeSean Jackson away from the Eagles. Now, they could add a former New York Giant in Terrell Thomas for some much-needed depth in the secondary.
Thomas missed two full seasons (2011 and 2012) with reconstructive knee surgeries, but he played a full 16-game schedule for the Giants last year as a nickel corner. He knows the division well and would fill a need in Washington, regardless of how much the team uses the draft to bolster the secondary.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.
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